Happy 100th, Looff Hippodrome

It's home to the Santa Monica Pier carousel and a star in its own right.

We may frequently reference the various structures in our lives -- the library or the coffeehouse or the car wash or our home -- but we don't, as a rule, break out the word "hippodrome" all that often, at least in day-to-day conversation.

There is an exception, of course, and it has sat grandly upon Santa Monica Pier for about 36,480 days, give or take, as of this typing. It's The Looff Hippodrome, the lavishly windowed building that houses the pier's beloved carousel, and it is about to celebrate its centennial on Sunday, June 12.

June 12 is one hundred years to the very day of the Looff's opening, and the pier, along with the Santa Monica Pier Restoration Corporation and the hippodrome's many devotees, will be there to shower it with attention, accolades, and the sort of affection reserved for a longtime landmark that's weathered the decades.

"Lavishly windowed," while accurate, doesn't go nearly far enough to describe the capacious and airy enclosure, which boasts elegant Moorish and Byzantine details in its design, as well as nods to the up-and-coming California architecture ("up-and-coming" back in 1916, of course).

You can admire its big-top-y top on June 12 while enjoying a limited edition Brass Ring Potato Chip Sundae or taking a ride on a carousel pony for the ye olden price of a cool nickel.

A wayback photobooth, actual pictures of the hippodrome's early days, and more historic treats await.

Possibly the most intriguing of these historic treats? There'll be tours of the building's second-floor apartments. That's right, there are apartments inside the carousel building at Santa Monica Pier, though they're now used as offices, so don't let your envy rise too high.

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Which begs this question: How much jealousy might it invoke to tell someone you live above a carousel at the beach? It is no longer a possibility, of course, but it once was, back in the day.

Charles Looff was the builder of the Santa Monica Pier, and his name still stands on the building, which was seen in 1973's "The Sting" and many other on-the-pier productions. Even better than becoming a movie star, though? The Looff Hippodrome entered the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.

As for "hippodrome," the word? "Hippo" has ancient equine roots, and The Looff Hippodrome is indeed a place where the ponies run daily.

"Run" with the help of shiny poles and inner mechanisms, yes, but move the horses do, merrily, inside a Pacific-pretty structure that is nearly 100 years along in its story.

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